Smile Foundation – Microsoft Unlimited Potential Community Technology Skills Programme
Smile Foundation in partnership with Microsoft Corporation India Private Limited organised the ‘NGO Connection Day’ on the role of ‘IT and life-skills in enhancing employability prospects for underprivileged adolescent youth’. The two day programme saw participation of many NGOs from across India along with representatives from corporate houses, partner organisations and other stakeholders. There were training sessions, panel discussions and presentations on various topics related to employability of underprivileged youth. Participants had the common goal to share about measures of imparting IT training, life skills training to adolescent youth to prepare them for fast expanding retail sector.
Ms. Shakila T. Shamsu, Joint Adviser (Education), Planning Commission, Government of India was the chief guest on the occasion. Ms. Shakila said, “Information Technology has become an important tool in reaching out to the unreached. Along with educational qualifications, development of right skills is also important for employability as well as better career options.”
The first day of the seminar began with lightning of lamp by the chief guest along with senior people from Microsoft Corporation and Smile Foundation. This was followed by a welcome address by Mr. Naresh Chaudhary, the then Chief Operating Officer, Smile Foundation and keynote address by Dr. Vikas Goswami, Lead CSR, Microsoft Corporation.
The first panel discussion, ‘Linking IT & Life Skills with Employability for Youth’ served as a platform to share experiences about different activities related to employment and the potential challenges at the national level. The focus was on the importance of training in IT skills and the partnership between the Microsoft Unlimited Potential Community Technology Skills Program (UP-CTSP) and the Smile Twin e-Learning Programme of Smile Foundation.
The key speakers of the session were Nalini Gangadharan, Chairperson, CAP Foundation, Hyderabad, Rajendra Joshi, Trustee, Saath Charitable Trust, Ahmedabad, Dr. Aishwarya Mahajan, Regional Manager, Aide et Action (India), Hyderabad, Chetan Sharma, Founder, Datamation Foundation Charitable Trust and Naresh Chaudhary, the then Chief Operating Officer, Smile Foundation. The session was moderated by Dr. Vikas Goswami, Lead CSR, Microsoft Corporation.
The important topics discussed during the seminar were: Are youth from poor socio-economic backgrounds different from others, what are the opportunities available for the disadvantaged youth in today’s fast expanding Indian economy, how can IT and soft skills training be customized for the targeted sectors, how can quality training be ensured, ways to encourage lifelong learning among the youth coming from deprived backgrounds, how to reduce dropout rates in the training centres, strategies to facilitate jobs or entrepreneurship/ self-employment for youth with the requisite IT and soft skills, how can sustainable linkages with private sector recruiters and government be established, value-added skills and courses that can complement the core training and help get employment, training of the unemployed or seasonally unemployed rural youth and the growing trend in the job market.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Naresh Chaudhary, the then Chief Operating Officer, Smile Foundation said, “The road to success is always under construction and through the ‘NGO Connection Day’ we would like to share our experiences and learning on IT and life skills. It’s a unique platform that can give much needed impetus to our approach on addressing livelihood issues of the less advantaged community. It is a great experience to have all stakeholders, IT companies, corporate houses, implementing organisations, beneficiaries, faculties under one platform.”
A very important point highlighted during the first session was that teaching life skills is not a rocket science that still people can understand, it is a life long phenomenon where underprivileged adolescent youth has to maintain the equipoise between his/ her external and internal self and job is not an end for them. Another crucial point of discussion was providing next level of training to the youth already placed after receiving initial skills. The need of maintaining alumni record was highlighted and stressed as an indispensable process for any such training centres.
Dr. Vikas Goswami, Lead CSR, Microsoft Corporation India Private Limited said, “As a socially responsible corporate, Microsoft has been supporting non-profit organizations in various ways to enable digital inclusion and bring the benefits of information technology to underprivileged and marginalized sections of society. We are pleased to partner with Smile Foundation for organizing the NGO Connection Day. We trust this event has provided valuable opportunities for cross learning and capacity building.”
Another panel discussion on ‘Employing from Low Income Communities – Recruiters’ Perspective’ was based on opinions and views from different recruiters where trainees of Smile Twin e-Learning Programme are placed. The panelists for the session were Ms. Sangeeta Robinson- DGM, TATA Tele-services, Prasenjit Sinha, Training Head, Salient Technologies and Ms. Usha Chauhan , Senior Executive – HR & Training, Café Coffee Day. Representatives from different corporate houses shared their perspectives on recruiting marginalised youth trained from Smile Foundation and Microsoft’s UP-CTSP initiative. They informed about the changing policies of the organisations and the pre-requisites. In a nutshell, it was all about learning expextations of corporate houses from NGOs and vice versa.
The important topics discussed during the session were: the options available for youth in different corporate houses, procedures to identify the NGOs/ development organisations providing livelihood training to the youth, advantages of recruiting from underprivileged communities, aligning their requirements with the training that the NGOs impart, technical changes in the training programmes, visits by company representatives and delivery of lectures etc. (exploring the various volunteering options), placement opportunities in various locations of India and training programmes matching their requirements, recruiters’ suggestions to NGOs, internship programmes for the trained youth etc. The day provided a platform to for various partner organisations of Microsoft and also between other NGOs working with the agenda on IT, education and employment to network, share and learn about each other’s activities. The seminars focused on the convergence of successful public private partnership which is important for the development of a country like India.
The day also saw training programmes and presentations by representatives from Microsoft India and Resource Alliance for NGOs on preparing and writing applications for seeking grants from donor agencies. The sessions were useful for various grassroot organizations involved in education and livelihood activities.
The day two of the seminar began with an introduction of 14 partner organizations of the Microsoft Corporation India Private Limited. The 14 partner organisations were from across India supported by Microsoft under UP-CTSP. The focus on this day was on giving importance to how these NGOs are utilizing different Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in reaching the ignorant population. Different organizations gave presentations on their break-through case studies that have brought an revolution in the different rural areas of the country.
The first presentation on “Rural BPOs for IT-based Employment Generation” was given by Mr. Shrot Katewa, Source for Change, Rajasthan. Fairly new in the sector, Source for Change has initiated the first of its kind BPO run and managed by rural women in the Jhun Jhun district of Rajasthan. The organisation has been successful in significantly transforming the lives of women in the village. Women in the region are actively contributing to the family’s income and receiving much awaited respect from their male counterparts.
Another presentation, “Promoting Right to Information (RTI) through CTLCs” was given by Kumar Ujjawal, Aga Khan Rural Support Programme. The organization has been able to mobilize the community and spread awareness on the Right to Information in three districts of Gujarat. The administrative authorities of the area are also convinced with the good work of the organization and have been supporting it in reaching out to people at large and helping them to secure their rights. The organization gas been using various SMS based services, has established toll free number and other ICT tools in spreading information among people.
The presentation by the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation on “Securing Community Involvement for CTLC Sustainability” was truly impressive. The organization has been working widely on the principle of social inclusion through access to technologies, which helps to enhance income and preserve environment. The organization has been working on imparting IT skills training to youth and also to other section of people like farmers and fishermen to enhance their income.
Microsoft officials presented the importance of using Share Point software, which is developed to improve organizational effectiveness, collaboration and content management. Unanimously the software was liked by all the participants and agreed upon as the need of the hour.
The two day programme ended with a closing speech by Dr. Vikas Goswami, Lead CSR, Microsoft Corporation.
The seminar provided an ideal platform to various partner organisations of Microsoft and Smile Foundation and other NGOs working with the agenda on IT, education and employment to network, share and learn about each other’s activities. The prime focus of the seminar was on the convergence of successful public private partnership, which is important for the development of a country like India.